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  • Writer's pictureIan Galipeau

A Little Perspective

I played a show this summer at a farm. It was billed as a "family fun night", with a food truck, hay rides, live music and a petting farm, and I was playing a long gig - 3 hours, starting at 4pm. I arrived at 3:15 and saw a few large tents in a field, but no obvious place where I was supposed to set up. I went into the farm stand for more information and they pointed me toward a tent in the field that was full of tables and chairs. As I began unloading my car, a truck full of Jamaican farmhands showed up and started moving the tables to another tent. They started immediately in with some good-natured teasing -

"So you're the music man? What do you play, country and western?"

"Are we gonna hear some Bob Marley today?"

"We want some calypso!"

I assured them I would not be butchering any of their musical heritage, and they laughed and kept clearing the tent. I noticed a pool of water hanging low in the corner of the cover, not quite above my gear, but close enough to be uncomfortable. I moved my stuff out of the way and stood up on a bench to push the water off. I lifted the tarp and at the last second, the water split and poured off in two directions - half went off the edge where I had intended, and the other half went through a rip a few feet to my left, onto a picnic table... exactly where I'd put my pedalboard to be safe.

An "Oooohhhh!" erupted from the farmhands as I rushed to pour the water out of my suitcase pedalboard, and then sprinted to the food truck to grab a bunch of napkins. I wiped everything as dry as I could, and hoped it was enough.

Pouring a bunch of water all over my expensive electronics is a rough way to start a gig, but I set my things up and waited a few minutes to plug in. The parking area was visible from my tent, and it was empty except for my car. I tested my pedals (they still worked!) and started my set playing for only the farmhands. While I was encouraged by their head-bobbing and kind words, I knew they'd be going back out to the field in just a few minutes. They left after a couple songs, and I played the rest of the first hour to an empty tent. My closest audience member was a 500-pound pig. The "family fun night" was starting to look more like... just a night.

As a younger man, I think I'd have been frustrated at this point. Now that I have children, the minor setbacks don't shake me as much. I'm quite used to getting derailed, and I've abandoned the youthful fantasy that my music will ever replace my day job. I'm focused on being grateful that I have a chance to share my songs at all. When they connect with people it's a really incredible feeling, and that's what I play for now.

Which is to say - instead of begrudgingly laboring through another two hours, upset that expectation does not equal reality... I just enjoyed myself. I departed from my setlist and played a bunch of fun cover songs instead. I laughed at a few of my own stupid observations. And in time, I played to a rotating audience of probably 80 people who sat to eat, rest, and listen. I played my songs, and I made some tips. On request, I channeled my inner Disney princess to do a few bars of "Let It Go" (although I was immediately informed by an indignant 4-year old that it was the wrong Elsa song... she wanted the one from "Elsa 2"). I saw a baby boy dancing in his stroller, and when I jokingly took credit for his sweet moves, his mom said he'd never responded to music like that before. I met a young family with two preschool-aged daughters, who said a couple of the songs I had played were their new favorite songs. From the perspective of those littles, my unremarkable show was something really special, which makes it special for me. It turned out to be a delightful night, full of both families and fun. And livestock and corn. I am thankful for all of it.

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